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Rivianna proposal revives old arguments

The proposed design for the Rivianna apartment and hotel project in Milwaukee includes three separate towers, each 56 feet wide and 15 stories tall, on a four-story base.  Rendering courtesy of Rivianna LLC

The proposed design for the Rivianna apartment and hotel project in Milwaukee includes three separate towers, each 56 feet wide and 15 stories tall, on a four-story base. Rendering courtesy of Rivianna LLC

Sean Ryan
[email protected]

People who two years ago argued the proposed 15-story Rivianna project is too large are returning to Milwaukee City Hall this month to repeat themselves.

Residents of Marine Terminal Lofts, which is across the Milwaukee River from the Rivianna hotel and apartment site south of downtown Milwaukee, unsuccessfully campaigned in 2007 against the project’s height and shape. Now developer Rivianna LLC, Milwaukee, is returning for final approval.

Marine Terminal Lofts residents and Alderman Robert Bauman say the city should not approve Rivianna until Milwaukee drafts design guidelines for both banks of the Milwaukee River.

City zoning restricts the height of buildings, such as the Marine Terminal Lofts, developed on the east bank across the river from where the Rivianna is proposed. But there are no such restrictions for developments on the west bank.

“The community ought to be looking for a balance of tax base and consistency with their overall plan,” said Richard Koenings, a member of the board of directors of the Marine Terminal Lofts Condominium Association.

Evan Zeppos, Rivianna spokesman, said the project team has tried to design the building in a way that alleviates neighborhood concerns, but some residents will not be satisfied until the project goes away.

“We’re not interested in a delay,” Zeppos said of waiting for the city to draft new guidelines for projects near the river. “We’ve been through the process. We’ve been talking with people.

“Delay is a euphemism for killing projects.”

The proposed project would have three, 15-story towers on top of a four-story base. Because the city approved the shape and size two years ago, officials must now focus on other aspects of the design.

The development team considered building Rivianna as a box-shaped building or with two or three towers, said Bradley Knab, vice president of Landscape Architects Inc., Milwaukee. But a five-story rectangular box blocks more sunlight than the three-tower design, he said. And building Rivianna with two towers rather than three results in stouter columns, he said.

“This may look like a massive building,” Knab told the Milwaukee Plan Commission on Monday, “but it is really a small building.”

Whitney Gould, the only member of the commission to vote against the project design, said the three-tower design is too overbearing. She said she wants the developer to consider a design with perhaps two towers that are thinner and taller.

She said tall buildings are inevitable as cities grow, but the designs must be more elegant than what Rivianna is offering.

“One of the things that a lot of people down there are concerned about is their views would be obstructed,” she said of the Marine Terminal residents. “But the city does not protect view-sheds.”

Koenings said he prefers the box design, which would have a similar shape and size to the Marine Terminal Lofts building.

One comment

  1. This is a great development. We need more people and higher density in the city to support businesses and to meet Wisconsin’s goals of becoming more sustainable and environmentally progressive.

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